How I stole a bike and a bus to make it to Google.


Disclaimer  — I’ve told this story to both family and friends, and have gotten everything from laughs, to disbelief, to “Wow, you really want this.” This really did happen, I promise.

Steve Jobs’ very famous quote of “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish” certainly lives within this story, and I’d like to think this interview experience takes it to a real-life form.

Also if anyone from Google is reading this, I apologize for the bike I “borrowed.”


So, chances are, the title of this post grabbed you. It’s an interesting story for sure, entailing ~2600 miles from coast to coast, chasing a dream I’ve had since I was a freshman computer science major to work at a top tech company, or better yet, a company that creates products that people truly love and care about. It’s about a purpose for me, making an impact on what I build to better someone’s life — in my opinion, it’s what software is all about

How far would you go to chase your dream?


Surprisingly, this story all started with a photography job I have here at the student paper at WVU. Two years ago I picked up my first DSLR camera when a local Best Buy gave me — at the time, a 19 year old without a job — a credit card to finance a Canon Rebel. From there I’ve been clicking the shutter and obsessing over photography blogs ever since.

The WV Broadband Summit on November 4th, 2013

Fast forward roughly two years and a few months later and here I am, a senior in the computer science program leaving a morning class, on a bus headed home to get lunch. My phone vibrates, and it’s the GroupMe chat that all the student photographers are connected to. It’s my boss, buzzing in about an event that we need a photographer for — the West Virginia Broadband Summit, a business and tech conference discussing new broadband solutions to better the WV economy and build new business within the state. Its being held at a local hotel, and starting in 30 minutes. WV Senator Jay Rockefeller is going to be speaking, and “another guy, a Google VP I think”, my boss so eloquently put.

As soon as I read “Google VP” I pulled the cord to stop the bus at the next street and I took off running. I hit my apartment in four minutes, changed into chinos and a dress shirt, grabbing my camera bag and keys, and sprinting out the door to my car. I had my Spotify account running at the time, and so fittingly “Baba O’Riley, Teenage Wasteland” came on over bluetooth as I turned the key to start my car. If I needed any reassurance that I should take this assignment, the opening keyboard solo of that song did just that. Opportunities can come when you least expect them.

I hit the conference in 10 minutes, after breaking a few speed limits and using my very large camera setup and backstory as a ticket into the main arena. After meeting up with the writer for the story, I look up at the conference board and see as expected, the VP of Business Innovation @ Google[x], Mohammad Gawdat is speaking in 20 minutes.

Sure, I was here to get photos of the speakers for a paper, but it’s not everyday that you get to meet someone from a company like Google after growing up in West Virginia. I was pretty determined to put on the best first impression possible.

Mohammad, or as he said “Please, call me Mo” spoke about the incredible Project Loon, and showed the audience of West Virginians that Loon could solve not only connectivity problems in parts of our beloved state, but the entire planet, giving everyone on earth an internet connection. “Loon For All” was truly awesome.

A shot I got of Mo speaking for the paper.
On the right wearing Google Glass!

After Mo was finished and a few questions were answered, the large group broke up to see the next speaker in a different area, and Mo stayed around to meet personally with people in the audience. It was sweet to see a business exec be so personable, and after I introduced myself Mo let me try on a pair of Google glass, and we took a photo. He gave me a business card, and said

“…keep in touch”.

So here I am, a senior computer science major at WVU, who after sneaking into a business conference just met a VP at Google and now has his contact info. I’ve attended hackathons, read interview books, joined every CS student organization on campus — and a photography job at a student paper is what leads me to meeting a guy like Mo. Its funny how things work out. I emailed Mo soon after, and explained a bit more of my technical experience, and of course interest in Google opportunities. He networked me to a recruiter, who then fit me for an open position, and a few days later I had a phone interview.

After the phone interview (which was for a position directly working with customers, Google products, and engineering — a complete dream come true) I soon got an invitation to fly out and interview on-site in Mountain View. I was floored. I arranged to fly out the next week, and I felt on top of the world.

When I was in high school I spent hours watching the old 240p resolution YouTube videos of the Google Campus tours like this one  — And I’d be lying if I said wasn’t a factor in my decision to study CS in school. Now I was going there, and it felt pretty surreal.

Fast forward to the day of the interview — I wake up at 6 a.m. (early I know, but with the time zone fix it felt like 9 a.m.) to have a good breakfast and start some last minute reviewing. I scheduled a town car to pick me up at 8:30 sharp; my first interview wasn’t until 9:45, but I was nervous, wary of traffic, and call me a geek — but if I could plan out a few minutes to walk around the Google campus it sounded like a good plan. So 8:30 comes, and no taxi. I call the company three times, disconnected the first two tries, and then finally I get through. They forward me to the driver’s cell, and his response:

“Mr.Dobson, I’m here, and I can’t find you”.


Naturally as any nervous interviewee would, I start running the parking lot of the hotel, up and down, phone in hand as I talk to the driver. 10 minutes pass, our voices range in volume and, um “tone” when I finally get the idea to ask “What address are you at?” — He is 7 blocks in the wrong direction. Yikes, lets call it strike #1 for today. But we get it taken care of and 10 minutes later we hit the highway headed for Mountain View.

So now its 8:50. I’m in the cab, cooling off and on my way to the Googleplex.

“The cab was the worst thing to happen today, and I got it taken care of. Its only 10 miles, I’ll still be there early.”

The inner monologue is relaxing, and then I feel the cab slow down, just in time for me too look up and of course see strike #2 of the day staring me in the face.

Traffic is four lanes wide, and completely stopped for as far as I can see.

Needless to say, today isn’t going as originally planned. The minutes that go by feel like hours. Soon after, traffic is cleared, and we ride into the Googleplex at 9:30 — “Good thing I had this cab come that early” I tell myself. “15 minutes, I’m still 15 minutes early and I’m relaxed. Now it’s my time to really nail this interview.”

The Google Bike!
In the courtyard!

I walk into the building I was dropped off at, confident, and ready. I walk by a Google bike parked outside the door, and opened up my iPhone’s camera to take two pictures, one of the bike (which was just so cool), and another of the front Google sign in the courtyard.

Leaving the courtyard, I walk up to the front desk with a big smile — “Hi, I’m Cory Dobson, and I have an interview today.” “Awesome!” the receptionist replies, and looks up my name. As I’m waiting, I take a moment to take in every part of this building – Building 43 on campus, which much like the bike outside, is oozing with cool.

It was only a few seconds later that I hear a very mumbled, “uhm…uh” and I look back at the front desk. That “uhm.” sound isn’t what I wanted to hear, but certainly after this morning nothing could go more wrong. I’d already been through strikes 1 and 2 today, safe to say I should’ve expected 3 to come as well.

“Cory? Yea, you’re in the wrong building, like the really wrong building.”

Boom. Strike 3. Of course I am.


Initiate Panic Sequence in 3…2….1 WHAT!? No. You’re kidding.”

“I told the cab driver the exact address of my interview. Wait….Shit.

It was about at that moment when I realized how good the guy, who was seven blocks away from me an hour ago, was with exact addresses. I knew he wasn’t seven blocks off this time though, I mean, I’m clearly in the Googleplex, and my interview is now in 10 minutes. ~2600 miles traveled so far, and now a few blocks of corporate offices stand in between me and this interview. I wasn’t planning on striking out today, regardless of what life decided to throw at me.


“Ok, where do I need to go? My interview is in a little over 10 minutes.” I said as calm as I can, and the Googlers at the front desk hand me a Campus map, with a dark blue pen line highlighting where I need to go, that looked something like this:

A recreated map — Lost the original!

“How am I supposed to get there!?” I said during the first glance of the long blue line dragging down the page. “Um. You can make it, you can walk, just… walk fast.” she said.

So… I started running.

(The worst part is, maybe she was right, maybe I could’ve made it just running, but that wouldn’t make for a very good story would it? — Certainly not Hungry, or Foolish enough here)

I hit this courtyard in full sprint.

I got to the edge of building 43 and 40 when I saw a security guard in a Google jacket. Franticly I started to explain my situation to him, asking if there was anyway he could get me there faster. I could quickly start to see in his eyes how he thought I was screwed (Hey, join the club man) — before he blurted out the last thing I expected to do today.

“Kid. Take that Google bike, and pedal as fast as you can.”


WHAT!? No you don’t understand I need to be— ”

“Take that Google Bike. Now. Go.” he said as he cut me off.

So, giving him a confident nod, I threw my luggage into the front buggy, holding the map down with my notepad, tucked in my laces into the sides of my shoes, and peeled out in the multicolored bike as fast as I could. The bike I took had a bell attached to it, and I figured that might come in handy if I needed to alert any walkers of the crazed interviewee from the east coast who just now stole a bike.


I can only imagine what I must’ve looked like, pedaling and ringing my way to the first intersection between Huff Ave and Charleston Rd. Charleston Rd, that struck a chord in my mind, “Charleston” — the name of my hometown in West Virginia. Much like the keyboard solo of Teenage Wasteland did for me a few weeks prior, that road sign justified my decision to steal this bike — Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.

A recreated point of view — courtesy of Google Maps

I gunned down Charleston Rd, trying to remember the directions I heard from the Googlers in building 43. “Turn here, then go straight ‘til you hit it.” played back in my mind.


“Or was that go straight then turn, or two turns, just straight? Shit.”

For a moment I didn’t feel that angry at that cab driver from earlier, as right now I couldn’t even navigate four blocks of offices, let alone a highway of California traffic.

I turned right at the next intersection onto Joaquin Rd, and as you look back at my recreated map, you can see thats when I just made my own strike 4, and I’ve got six minutes to go.


Building 45

It took me less a minute to realize what I just did, and I ended up at building 45, (passing a bike rack with more Google bikes — ‘Cool!’ I thought) where I met the next Googler on this nightmare four-block quest. I frantically began to explain my situation to him as well, where I saw his face go from “Hey random kid on a Google Bike!” to “Wow…that sucks.” Right as he started to speak ( maybe he had a good idea? A question left to wonder about) we both see a white employee bus started to pull out and turn left from Joaquin onto Charleston.


“QUICK! Stop that bus!” he yelled.

And who else to do it than the WV kid on bike with — a bell. I think I pulled that bell faster than the wheels were turning, as if it anyone could possibly hear it. I wasn’t really thinking clearly at the time, but something caught the drivers eye, and the bus stopped before turning.


I grabbed my luggage from the cart, and gave the Googler at Building 45 a salute before jumping on this bus and explaining to the driver as to why “No, I don’t have an employee badge.” I explained my situation to everyone on the bus — how I got dropped off at the wrong building, stole a bike, flagged down the bus…nightmare, nightmare, etc. With disbelief in everyone’s eyes, they all collectively decided to forgo their own stops and get me to my interview. My interview that was supposed to start two minutes ago.


Late…Tardy…Gross. Horrible. Unqualified.

Every nasty adjective in the world hit my mind at that moment on the bus when I looked at my watch. 9:47, whole two minutes late. Certainly it was not that big of a deal given the circumstance, however after you just stole a bike, a bus, and retied your shoes twice from running, it’s hard to think straight. I grabbed my phone and in panic typed out an email.

I opted out of telling them “Oh yea I took a bike lol. kthxbye” also 12:47 East Coast = 9:47 West Coast, to clear any confusion.

I got to my correct building at 9:51, and paged my recruiter. Amazingly, I was calm. To be honest, I was a little too nervous (as any new grad interviewee would be) going into campus. However after 15 minutes from hell getting here I got any nerves out of my system, and started to admire this Google building, which much like #43, was oozing coolness.


I met my recruiter, and greeted her with a huge smile and a handshake. We began to walk to the room which I was interviewing in, and she asked:


How was your trip over?


I told my story, but left out the bike, and the running, and the panic — I did add in the employee bus ride and getting dropped off at the wrong building of course. It was a safe story for being a few minutes late.

Although I thought the interviews went great, Google didn’t continue with another after that. In the back of my mind I think perhaps they saw security footage of my bike tour — lol. I was pretty upset, but looking back on the story I think I learned a pretty great lesson from it all.


I have a dream that I’m chasing. I’ll go 2600 miles to the unknown to chase it. I’ll steal bikes and busses and run til my shoes come untied. I’ll code ‘til sunrise and forget meals— opting out for another cup of coffee. I’m hungry, and I certainly can be foolish. But that’s not going to stop me. I realized dreams are hard, and they are gonna throw you a lot of curveballs. They are going to test you when you least expect it, and you’re either gonna stop, or you’re going to keep pedaling. I’ve almost given up plenty of times, but I look back on my experiences — especially this one, and I find the motivation to keep going.

You can too.

Keeping pedaling Medium, find some humor in it all, learn from your experiences, and chase the dream. Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”


If you enjoyed this story, I’d love for you to hit the recommend button! You can also find me on twitter @corydobson — Also a huge thank you to @melmoraes for helping me edit this!

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I’m 23. Let’s talk retirement.


I’ve been working for just over one month now, and I think it’s time to call it quits. Seems like something someone from my “generation of entitlement” would do. As much as I would love uphold the stereotype… I can’t. From a financial standpoint, it’s just not possible.

I detest how money influences big, life decisions, but it’s critical when planning for an early retirement. Eventually I want to buy a house, enjoy my hobbies, and start a family. All of that takes money. The world is certainly not free – so it looks like I’ll be working a bit longer.

However, with retirement on my mind, there’s a neat concept called “compounding.” It works like this. In a nutshell — the earlier you start putting away money the more time it has to grow. Seems simple, but the power of an added 10 or 20 years to this period of growth results in retiring a millionaire or retiring not-a-millionaire…

How do you retire a millionaire?

Open a Roth IRA, and do it yesterday! An IRA is an “individual retirement account,” and it’s a place where people can start to save money for when they get old.

“I’m in my 20’s. I could care less about saving for retirement.”

To be entirely honest, I somewhat agree. Money being saved in your 20′s should be used to buy a first home, pay off student loans, or (wild idea) travel! I only recently graduated from Northeastern University, and after studying abroad in Australia and South Africa all I really want to do is see the world. Additionally, when life hits and you become committed to a family and mortgage it’s impossible to travel. (Keep this in mind.)

Regardless — I insist you start saving. This is a simple choice between impulse and self-restraint.

I could show you the numbers, and this method would easily prove why saving early is important. However, I’m not doing the math, and it’s because the logic behind saving is obvious. Instead — think about it this way.

Will it feel good knowing you are building your wealth? Probably.

Are you going to regret this decision? Probably not.

Will the old man be proud? Probably.

“Okay, how do I do this?”

  1. Save $1,000 to initially fund your Roth IRA account. Some companies require larger initial contributions to start an IRA. (For example, Fidelity requires $2,500 to start an IRA with them.)
  2. Research financial institutions that offer Roth IRA accounts. Examples are Vanguard, T. Rowe Price, and Fidelity. Check out fees, minimum contributions, and the fine print to make sure you choose the best company that fits your needs. Take an hour or two to investigate your options thoroughly.
  3. Open an account with one of these financial institutions. It’s easy. You can do this online.
  4. Once approved, you will need to transfer money into the IRA. It should be easy to move this money from your checking or savings account when the time comes.
  5. Save a portion of your income so you can regularly contribute to your IRA. Think about this “savings portion” just like you might think about paying a monthly bill. You need to pay your cable bill every month. Well, now it’s time to pay your “savings bill” every month.

“How do I do this without paying common IRA fees?”

Here’s what I did. Opened a Fidelity account after saving $2,500. Then chose a no-fee Fidelity mutual fund to invest the IRA into. When you open an account with Fidelity and choose to invest into one of their own no-fee mutual funds all fees are waived. If I had invested the money into a mutual fund not affiliated with Fidelity then I would have paid a fee.

“This seems like a big decision for someone my age. I’m not ready.”

You’re wrong. If you are earning any kind of income you are ready (and it doesn’t need to be much). I thought the same thing before I was persuaded to try it. Savings would be something I would worry about in my 30’s or 40’s. The truth is – that’s what most people think, however investing into an IRA early will benefit you 10x over in the long run. Don’t believe me? No problem. I’ll leave you with some of the math I neglected from earlier.

If you started a Roth IRA at age 40 this is how much you finish with at age 60: $415,012

If you started a Roth IRA at age 25 this is how much you finish with at age 60: $1,309,387

Both totals are based off an annual contribution of $5,500 with an 8% annual return. Both “$5,500″ and “8%” are reasonable numbers to demonstrate how quickly your IRA can grow.

Like I mentioned, most people don’t start retirement accounts until they are well into their 30’s and 40’s. The benefits are good starting then, but a few years can make a big difference. And according to one instance it’s a $894,375 difference.

It’s about time we “20-somethings” start using age to our advantage. The millennial generation may have some gaping faults, but let’s get this one right.

Step #1: Google “Start a Roth IRA.”

Go!

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5 PR Tips for Writing an Effective Email Pitch


As part of my day job for the past 3 years, I’ve been pitching reporters and editors at small mommy-blogs and even top-tier outlets such as Wired. During this time, I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t — from downright ugly and spam-tastic form-filled emails, to short and sweet messages.

Without further ado, here are a few pitch-writing tips that I think are helpful to entry and intermediate-level PR professionals:

KISS (Keep it Short and Simple)

No editor wants to read through mountains of paragraphs to get at whatever product or news you’re trying to promote. The KISS Principle really applies here in terms of writing; keep your pitch to the bare essentials with no more than 150 words. It’s totally fine to start drafting your pitch however long you like — in fact, I find that longer is better in this initial phase to jot down thoughts — but trim it down substantially when finalizing.

Bullet Points

Editors and reporters love bullet points. Starting an email off with a quick sentence followed by a few key bullet points allows the reader to get a quick and dirty glimpse of what you’re offering. Even better, it gives them an easy way to go back and reference things since you took the time to seperate items via a simplified list.

Personalize, and Don’t be Sloppy About it

“Hi zAcH ,, I am fromNigera and would like to offer you [DOLLAR-AMOUNT-HERE] in a trust fund”.

Seriously? Don’t be that guy. First rule: If you’re going to use a form generator, make sure that your excel/csv list has the correct grammar, spelling, and names. When you’re inserting the list into your form, make sure that punctuation is correct — don’t leave a nasty space in between the contact’s name and comma.

That being said, you do want to personalize your email with things such as the contact’s name, their outlet, and even the vertical they write about. I can’t speak for every editor, but whenever I get something that’s personalized and correctly formatted, I feel a little special inside.

Giveaways, Reviews, and Other Goodies

One of the toughest obstacles to face when doing traditional PR vs advertising is getting unpaid media exposure. If you’re in this line of work, you probably know all too well how frustrating this can be — especially when an editor sends you their media kit containing astronomically high pricing.

Obviously the best solution to getting coverage is through an established relationship with someone at the outlet you’re pitching — and if your news or product is somewhat high-profile or game-changing, you’ll most likely be taking the easy street.

But if you have no real hard news or story really worth writing about, one of the biggest things that can help is offering a giveaway contest or review unit if you have sort of product. Sometimes incentives can help offset the cost of running an article, or are simply good reasons to write a story.

Wait Until They Bite

I think of PR like fishing; there’s a sea full of reporters and editors, and our job is to cast out a fancy line (or in this case pitch them a story) in hopes of them biting. When fishing, you want to make sure not to give out too much bait and be patient with things.

You’ll want to apply these same principles to your pitch — don’t give out too much information on inital contact. Going along with rule #1, keep everything short and to the point so that you don’t dilute the email with fluff. Offer a press kit or press release upon request; if the reader is interested, they’ll ask for more information.

*I’m not trying to degrade writers in any way, just using this as an allegory.

I’ll leave you with a basic example of how a pitch should look using the above principles. Is there something I’m missing? I’d love to hear your tips, so shoot me an email (zach at azntaiji dot com) when you get a chance!

Example Pitch

Hi Joe,

Magical Unicorn Cases just recently launched an innovative new product for the iPhone — a case that transports itself (and your iPhone) into the hands of an unknown nearby stranger. A few key features:

  • Invades your personal privacy
  • Transports itself up to 300 miles away with TGPS (Transport GPS)
  • Made of high quality, heavy grade Steel

We’d love to offer you a unit for review on Joe’s Blog. Please let me know if interested, and I can send you some more information. Thanks!

Zach

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You are not Steve Jobs


can I get a hell yeah?

can I get a hell yeah?

A young CEO storms through his start-up, a tiny Godzilla, crushing the feelings of his staff like so many Japanese paper maché buildings. He rubs his forehead in meetings and loudly ponders why no one is as smart as he is. No ideas are to be considered for the product unless he initiated them. He is trying his damnedest to be just like his recently departed hero — Mr. Steve Jobs.

Now, here’s where I burn my bridge and never work at Apple ever again. I only have two personal experiences with Steve Jobs:

  1. In my first two weeks of being hired, he cut in line in front of me and a co-worker at the office cafeteria sushi kiosk. I said to my co-worker, “Who is this douche?” as I had never seen an Apple keynote at that point. My co-worker whispered, “That’s STEVE.” Okay, I noted to myself, Steve is a bit of a dick.
  2. I worked on the MobileMe team, now iCloud, as an Engineering Project Manager, and we had a notoriously bad launch when we re-branded and created an awesome new product out of .Mac. There were three to four levels of bosses between me and Steve (thankfully) and we had been telling our bosses that we did not feel confident about our launch date for a long time. We gave any number of suggestions of what we could do to launch that wouldn’t be such a giant production, but would totally have worked. Somewhere up the chain of command, it was decided it was not the Apple-way to launch something without a million fireworks. “But it’s the web!” we cried to no avail. We had our marching orders, and we walked single file to our collective doom.
    Then it fell down launch night. And all the lovely troopers (because everyone who works at Apple is completely kick-ass and does the hell out of their jobs), worked literally around the clock to fix it. Sleeping under desks, shuttling from hotels nearby, tagging in the next coder for their shift, until it was back up.
    Once it was up, we (at least a hundred of us) got called into a meeting with Steve Jobs. We all walked over to the building like we were headed to the guillotine. He stood in front of us and yelled at us, told us that we should be mad at each other, said we could have done a staggered launch and complained that we didn’t even try to do all the things that we (those on the ground floor of production that actually make the fucking products of the world) had been begging to do. It was the world’s best de-motivational speech.
    Now, regardless of whether no one in the inner sanctum of dudes-that-Steve-listened-to-at-the-time told him all the things we told our bosses, or who-up-the-chain-of-command was not brave enough to suggest we do something not-Apple-like — this was the system that Steve created. He made himself so fearful and terrible that an entire group of amazing, talented, hard working people, ended up getting screamed at wrongfully. It was his fault that the MobileMe launch went so poorly, not ours.

Even Steve Jobs wasn’t Steve Jobs initially. He only outed himself as a giant jerk after he had a company that could afford to have a huge turnover, and he had a pile of minions that hero-worshiped him no matter what he did. He was an abusive husband to an entire company. But at least he had a track record of success. If you do not have his history, maybe consider being nice to your staff. And even if you do, consider this a cautionary tale. The best thing you can do for your product is to have your staff tell you the truth, and listen to it. Godzilla-CEO, you cannot build a product all on your own, you rely on your staff, who you presumably hired because they were smart and competent. If you treat your staff with respect and incorporate their good ideas into your product, they will give you the adoration that people gave Steve, without the downsides that come from ruling with fear. So go forth into the product sphere, play nice, and build great things together with all of the talented people who are working so hard on your behalf. You, your product and your staff will all be better off.

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Your Idea Doesn’t Suck—It’s Just Not Fresh


If you have ever come up with a truly amazing idea at work in which your team was instantly on-board with, congratulations—you do not need to read the rest of this article.

Chances are you weren’t that lucky. More than likely you did all the right things. You articulated the pros and cons, perhaps charted its financial viability and even did meticulous research into why this idea would be so awesome. It got initial praise from the team or perhaps even the boss but for some reason it never really quite picked up steam, folks got busy with their daily to-dos and it festered like a raisin in the sun. Being the go-getter intrapreneur that you are you diligently reminded everyone that this idea can only happen with their support and that this will take a bit of a team effort to get off the ground. Unfortunately that last move sealed the fate of your once glorious idea. Before we go into just why that happened let’s look a little closer at what just happened.

Think about the last time that you heard a great idea from a coworker and whether or not it compelled you to participate. The first thing that comes to most people’s mind is the same question that comes to mind when filling out a marketing survey or deciding to attend a networking event—-that question is “What’s in it for me?” Agreeing with someone else’s great idea is one thing but being compelled to actually do work to bring that idea to fruition is quite another poker game. Its not because we as colleagues are mean or don’t care or don’t like to see a bit of innovation from time to time its just that most of us are simply too busy with the tasks that actually have deadlines. What is a savvy intrapreneur to do?

At the end of the day if you want someone to do any work to support your initiative you need to “pay it forward”. This means giving before getting. What needs to be instilled is not so much why this idea would be so great to the company but first and foremost why it would be great for those that you are trying to get to participate. The old “what’s in it for me” question is front and center here and can take several forms. Perhaps this is an initiative that will bring great praise for the team and not to just you. This is key because the only thing better than having a great idea (heck even better than the idea itself) is to have someone else who believes in the idea and truly sees the value.

People are far more willing to support and help carry through an idea or initiative when they feel that they are truly a part of the greatness. For others it may not be praise but simply getting work done easier or quicker. How does this idea help your colleagues finish their day quicker, make their life less complex or make their job a more enriching experience? Those colleagues that love challenges, are bored or are the known company innovators are the low hanging fruit and ideally are the ones to bounce your idea off of. These folks would be more apt to take on a new initiative and cultivate your initial support early in the idea life cycle. At this point its all about the approach.

For the same reason people prefer to make purchase decisions rather than to get sold on something is the same reason why you do not try to pitch them on the idea but instead bounce the idea off of them—in other words its all about generating buy-in. This lean approach to ideation means purposely leaving some room for others to lend their suggestions early in the initiative. Just as the Munchkin was not invented without the donut, your idea has a better chance of buy-in with a solid circle of nurturing feedback. Buy-in is not about getting their approval but helping you to eradicate some of the unforeseen initial objections early in the process. The more a person gives to your idea the more that they feel a part of your initiative and the more that person is willing to continue to contribute.

This process is all about giving. You are giving someone the opportunity to candidly share their opinion while the other is giving you insight that you may not have learned on your own. Start this conversation with “I was hoping to pick your brain” or “I was wondering if I could get your opinion” or “I have an idea that I’d like to bounce off of you” rather than starting with going into an elaborate description of your idea and how great you think it is.

I used to be on the softball team at a former company where at the beginning of the season the coach required us to pay a fee to join. The fee was only $3. I asked the coach why did he charge this trivial fee for surely it couldn’t even pay for our baseballs. He told me, and to this day I never forgot, “Its not about the $3 its about having people feel that they actually made a contribution—it used to be free before but many didn’t bother to show up”.

Being a part of a great initiative no matter how small is what my old softball coach would call having some “skin in the game”. Although ideas are infectious they spread at different rates. The most traction is typically secured by getting others on-board with the idea then pitching it together to the ultimate decision maker. The larger your base of supporters the more leverage you have to get the idea approved and hit the ground running backed by these early adopters.

Suppose you are having trouble articulating your idea or wondering why folks never replied to the nine page email on your oh-so-clever idea? Keep in mind that most busy people either don’t have the time or the attention span to entertain something that may sound like only more work to them. Make it easier for them and for you and play to the fact that most folks are visual. This doesn’t mean that you need to be a designer to draw-up some fancy Visio process diagram or a forty-slide PowerPoint deck. Take advantage of more engaging mediums such as a sixty-second Vimeo or YouTube video that can be easily shared and commented on. Another method could be a quick Survey Monkey survey (extra points by including a random $10 Starbucks gift card drawing) that can be passed around to garner input. The point is to have some fun with it and present it in a way that’s fresh and makes folks want to be a part of it.

What creative ways have you pitched ideas? What techniques have you used to successfully generate buy-in?

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Releasing Ads Early Pays Off For Super Bowl Advertisers, According To Visible Measures


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If you’re watching the Super Bowl today, some of those brand new ads may feel awfully familiar — a growing number of them are being released online ahead of time, either in their entirety or as a partial teaser.

A spokesperson for video advertising and analytics company Visible Measures, told me that his team looked at every Super Bowl campaign since 2010 and found that more and more advertisers are following this strategy — there were 13 in 2010, 27 in 2011, 34 in 2012, and 42 in last year. (Visible Measures found 30 brands that had their ads ahead of time this year, but that was in the middle of the past week, so the final number will be higher.)

Basically, it seems that advertisers now treat the game as just part of a monthlong campaign, one where online views are increasingly important. As Tim Calkins, a professor of marketing at Northwestern University, told The New Yorker: “It is not about winning the Super Bowl but winning an entire month.”

Super Bowl ads saw a total of 370 million online views last year, Visible Measures said (measured one month after the game). And advertisers who release the ads early are the ones who win, according to the company’s data.

Visible Measures says it tracks a video’s “True Reach” across the web, including sites like YouTube, DailyMotion, Metacafe, and Vimeo. When the brands released their ads ahead of time, they saw significantly higher True Reach than those that didn’t — the difference peaked at 600 percent more views in 2012 before falling to 200 percent last year, presumably due to increased competition for online attention.

As one example, Visible Measures pointed to Samsung’s video “The Big Pitch,” which had already been viewed 8.7 million times by the time the Super Bowl aired, and which had a total of 33.5 million online views a month later. And this year, Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” ad (embedded below) has already been viewed 26.7 million times — so its final viewer count is going to pretty impressive.

Required Reading: The Economist’s Special Report On Tech Startups


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It’s not every day we here at TechCrunch just point to someone else’s work and say, “Here, you should go read this.” But today’s an exception, because The Economist has put together a 16-page Special Report on the rise of technology startups around the world.

The report, which is written for the magazine’s general news audience, could serve as a sort of “State of the Union” for the industry. That means a lot of what’s reported there won’t really be news to those of you who are deeply involved in the startup world.

There are no big surprises or gotcha moments, for instance, in its various stories on the boom in accelerators, the move by hardware startups and suppliers to embrace Shenzhen, or the growth of tech ecosystems in communities around the world.

But where The Economist’s report could be useful is in helping those of us who follow this world every day to see the forest for the trees. In so doing, it we could possibly better understand the broader global impact that the spread of technology is having, how we’ve gotten here, and what the big trends are driving us forward. What it really means when software eats the world, as it were.

And hey, maybe you don’t know much about how Rocket Internet operates, why platforms have become so important, or the negative psychological effects that entrepreneurship has on some founders. If any of that is of interest, it’s in there, too.

Anyway, I highly recommend you download the full PDF, save it for a quiet moment when you have some spare time, and read it in its entirety. Because every now and then it’s good to take a big step back, re-learn the things you think you already know, and maybe see the tech world from another person’s point of view.

http://techcrunch.com/2014/02/01/required-reading-the-economists-special-report-on-tech-startups/

Why I Dropped Out of College and Moved to Silicon Valley


And why learning from the most talented people in the world beats sitting in a lecture hall

Last year I dropped out of college to pursue my education in Silicon Valley. Plenty of people told me that I was throwing away my future. Others told me that I could become the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. The truth is, I didn’t come to Silicon Valley searching for fame and fortune as entrepreneurs are so frequently depicted as doing on TV. I came for the education.

When I dropped out, one of the first lessons I learned in the school of hard knocks was improvisation. Most entrepreneurs’ favorite phrase is “fail fast and often,” but I prefer: “learn fast and often.” I surrounded myself with some of the brightest minds of our time which has forced me to read every book, blog post and Paul Graham essay out there just to play catch up.

Some 19-year-olds are passionate about Art History, but I’m more interested in how seemingly simple devices and apps are affecting our society in incredibly complex ways. The reality is that my curiosity and interest in this subject cannot be satisfied by reading about what happened six months ago, let along five years ago.

I am learning design principles from a man who influenced the original design of Wikipedia and current design of Mozilla Firefox. I’m beginning to understand the importance of audio engineering by working side-by-side one of the women responsible for the iPhone 5’s speakers. And my other co-workers bring experience from companies like Jawbone, Google and Salesforce.com to name just a few. Almost everyday, I find myself immersed in the latest and greatest that Silicon Valley has to offer which is incredibly satisfying.

At times I’ve been pushed to the brink of tears and found myself questioning whether or not a 19-year-old could really succeed in a world of grown ups. Being around such amazing talent often makes me feel like the dumbest guy in the room, but I’ve learned how to turn that into an competitive advantage by asking questions and always asking others how I can help them with what their working on.

The last year of my life has been a story that I believe represents a generational shift. I think the realization that a marketing degree isn’t going to prepare me for a successful future is a thought I share with many millennials. Only time will tell if my decision to leave school was the best of my life or a horrible mistake, but for now I’m happy conversing with and learning from the creators of some of the most innovative products in the world.

My dad once said that the years of a man’s life between 18 and 22 years old are ones of change, character-building and self-discovery. I’m not sure that either of us could have ever anticipated that this would be how I achieve those things, but at some point you have to look deep inside yourself and ask what it is that you want from life and building things is my “it.”

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